Visiting Lidice is an experience which is hard to describe; emotions veer around rapidly. We have visited because we wanted to, but also because we had a purpose, a purpose founded on an historical relationship which may be less than well-known amongst many but has wrought strong feelings and bred a desire to tell people about the atrocity and the healing that followed.
The museum is full of displays that one could read, watch and walk away from; but you'd be a hard-hearted soul if you did not leave the it behind with a sigh of relief that you could do so mixed with a desire to go and look again - at least those were my mixed feelings and i am not a hard-hearted soul. As often as one reads the story, a feeling of disbelief remains. Then, outside amidst the bleakly beautiful memorials and monuments, are people walking in the sunshine, being married in the rose garden that Stross and the Lidice Shall Live Campaign founded, families having a coffee and an ice-cream. In the bar next to the gallery, people eat and drink hearty and tasty Czech beer and food; they stopped and watch football on the TV; in the row of shops nearby they bought their daily bread. The new village is clean and alive. Children play in the gardens and cats laze on the tiled roofs. Along the avenue of trees, people pick the fruits of the trees.
Yes, Lidice Lives. The memorial lives. The new village is, though not the most spectacular or artistic or grand, the greater monument to all. Lidice and all it stands for lives on in life today.
Deeper into the Czech Republic, a hot day's cycle and wet morning's ride away was an earlier instalment in the story. Milan Krcmar had invited us to visit Dolni Vilemovice, near the town of Trebic in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands (do not underestimate these if you cycle out that way). A few years ago the community decided to restore the house where Jan Kubis was born. Something of a national hero, Kubis, left home after the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in early 1939. As an army officer finding himself with Czech and Slovak exiles in the UK, he volunteered to be part of Operation Anthropoid - the mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. He, and his colleagues, including co-assassin Josef Gabcik, paid the price following a shoot-out in a Prague church.
The museum is small, but mixes the great deed with the quiet life of a small village in rural Moravia. We were met by the village mayor, who showed us round and fed us delicate cakes she had made. We felt very honoured.
With the temperature climbing, Milan took us back to Trebic and the Alternative Energy Centre where he works. After a fascinating visit, with the temperature still rising, we opted for the train to Brno and thence - amid thirty-three centigrade and above - by train to Prague and the plane home.